I can’t get no satisfaction

Behind my piano you will find a huge plastic tub housing approximately 82 Batman action figures; the Dark Knight and his villains all bristle with assorted weapons. Nearby waits a squad of 47 Star Wars figures and oh, half a million Lego pieces. The latter are assembled into complex dwellings, spaceships, and monsters, each with impossibly detailed instructions, also somewhere around the house. I didn’t mention the plastic World War II soldiers, nor the cowboys and politically incorrect Indians, all of whom deploy with the comic book and space heroes for occasional combat on the living room floor.

In the basement sit 3,462 baseball cards in their boxes, along with my husband’s entire file cabinet of baseball programs dating back to 1981. I know the Baseball Hall of Fame will send a truck for them one of these days.

Upstairs, downstairs, we swim in books. Books in the bookcases, books piled on top of the bookcases, books on the radiators. This after a recent “book purge” in which we gave away six boxes of books.

You might think that with all of this stuff, we would never bring another item into our home. At least that’s what my husband says (except for those baseball programs). But of course new items arrive weekly: clothes, books, you name it. Is enough ever enough?

Because you and I suffer from the human condition, we find ourselves chasing after countless things that fail to satisfy us. In an honest moment we can even admit them to ourselves: We might start with food (note the obesity epidemic) or “stuff” (credit-card families average more than $10,000 in debt.). We could also list alcohol, porn, or mindless TV shows.

As Catholics we know, somewhere deep down, that, as St. Augustine said so elegantly, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.” Lent can be a time for us to identify our personal can’t-get-no-satisfaction traps and to fast from them. A friend of mine always gave up alcohol for Lent, I suspect to be sure that he was choosing the alcohol rather than alcohol choosing him. And although mostly I watch DVDs nowadays, you can only imagine how uncomfortable I get as our family nears its annual challenge of disconnecting the TV for Lent. Kids, too, are increasingly targets for ads touting what will make them cool, happy, or sexy. Why not use Lent to focus on family activities that come closer to satisfying the human heart? A few to get started:

• Spending time in nature

• Enjoying one’s family without an electronic screen involved

• Praying (at Mass and on your own)

• Reading a good book or listening to music that nudges you to grow

• Creating something (art, music, writing, dance, carpentry, photography)

• Helping the poor (an ancient Lenten favorite)

On that last one, pastor Msgr. Arturo Banuelas, in a U.S. Catholic interview, eloquently explains that the more time Catholics spend with the poor, the deeper their spirituality grows. “Somehow the liturgy makes more sense—the washing of the feet, the cross of unconditional love, the hope of the Resurrection. . . . The poor aren’t all good or saintly people, but the very fact that they live in hopeless situations . . . makes us . . . wonder if we’re living shallow, artificial lives. The poor are saying: yes, you are . . . not in words, [but] because we got out of our comfort zones. You cannot find that at Wal-Mart. The poor teach you that.”

by Catherine O’Connell-Cahill, from the pages of At Home with Our Faith, Claretian Publications’ print newsletter for parents on nurturing spirituality in the home. Winner of the 2010 General Excellence award from the Catholic Press Association. Here’s a sample issue.

We offer very low rates for parish use, as well as our free Moms’ Night Out monthly discussion guides.

And don’t miss our popular single-page parish handouts on handing on the faith, helping kids understand the Mass, Lent, and Advent.

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One Response

  1. I agree with this article, and it is so true. Our pastor gave a homily to this point; we still have a certain emptiness that will never be filled with “things.” While it is wonderful to surround ourselves with nice things, the newness wears off. Until we rest in Jesus, our heart won’t be totally filled!

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